Boyle shines as Hibs hold on against Livi
Goals from Kevin Nisbet and the impressive Martin Boyle secured victory for Hibernian, who held firm despite some late pressure from Livingston. Cameron Wanstall reports.
Hibernian took a large step towards securing third place in the Scottish Premiership after defeating Livingston 2-1 at Easter Road on Wednesday evening.
Kevin Nisbet opened the scoring after eight minutes, before Martin Boyle fired the home side further ahead from the penalty spot 20 minutes later. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas grabbed a goal from the same spot late in the second half for the visitors but Hibs managed to hold on for all three points.
Jack Ross made three changes to the Hibernian team that crushed League Two side Stranraer 4-0 in the Scottish Cup fourth round on Sunday. Ofir Marciano displaced Matt Macey in goal, while veteran left back Lewis Stevenson and defensive midfielder Alex Gogic replaced Josh Doig and Kyle Magennis.
Following last Saturday’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup, David Martindale made three changes to his Livingston side. Alan Lithgow, given his first start since December 2019 after a prolonged injury lay-off, replaced Jack Fitzwater in defence. Josh Mullin came in for Alan Forrest, while one former Hibs man filled in for another as Efe Ambrose started at the expense of Marvin Bartley.
It took just eight minutes for Hibernian to dismantle Livingston’s back five and open the scoring, making it all look so easy in the process. Paul McGinn neatly played Boyle in behind Ambrose before the Australian international unselfishly played in Nisbet. The forward slammed the ball past Max Stryjek from close range for his 14th league goal this season.
The hosts continued to dominate and soon had a chance to double their lead from the spot. Boyle received the ball on the right wing and sped past Jackson Longridge; breezed beyond a cautious Jason Holt (who had just been booked); and proceeded to get caught by the trailing leg of Ambrose as he raced into the penalty area.
The winger, wanting a goal to go with his early assist, confidently stepped up and smashed the ball into the top-right corner of the goal. Boyle’s terrorising runs were too much for Longridge, who was substituted after just half an hour. Jack McMillan came on his place but struggled to contain Boyle any better.
As Hibs continued to, frankly, embarrass their opponents with their play, chances kept coming their way. Nisbet skipped past Alan Lithgow before unleashing a fierce strike toward Stryjek from a tight angle. The keeper did enough to divert the ball behind for a corner.
Christian Doidge, who had excellently held up the ball and created chances all first half, came close to adding his name to the scoresheet. A header from a corner bounced wide, before a soft volley – following some fantastic play from Jackson Irvine and Nisbet – was collected with ease from Stryjek.
A distant effort from Craig Sibbald flew over the bar and was the highlight of the visitor’s first half. Just like Longridge before him, Ambrose was substituted after a miserable 45 minutes attempting to contain Hibs’ attacking trio. Winger Alan Forrest came on in his place as an incensed David Martindale reverted back to Livi’s accustomed 4-2-3-1 formation.
Livingston started the second half much better, limiting Hibs’ chances and getting forward themselves. Sibbald, twice, let off shots from the edge of the box after lay-offs from Jay Emannuel-Thomas. However, both efforts were deflected and caused Marciano no trouble.
Matej Poplatnik almost made an immediate impact of the bench for the visitors after a fantastic, whipped cross from Nicky Devlin reached him at the back post. The substitute striker slid in at speed to reach the ball but couldn’t redirect the ball goalward.
With seven minutes remaining, Emmanuel-Thomas was brought down by Kyle Magennis (who was only substituted on one minute earlier) and gave Livingston hope. The brawny forward, with his unusual but effective run-up, expertly placed the penalty in the bottom corner.
Hibernian – after playing attractive, exciting football in the first half – created nothing of note until stoppage time. Two times, Nisbet raced away from slipping defenders but on neither occasion could he beat Stryjek. Both shots proved unimportant anyway, as Hibs held on to win the game of two halves by a scoreline of 2-1.
Livingston will rue the missed opportunities in their much improved second half showing. The addition of Forrest in place of Ambrose turned the visitors’ performance around but not the final outcome. Hibs’ electric first half showing was enough to keep the three points in Edinburgh.
Victory at Easter Road gives Hibernian a seven point cushion in third place – unless Aberdeen shorten that tonight with their game in hand against Celtic. Livingston, meanwhile, remain on 44 points in fifth place and have only won one of their last nine league fixtures.